State Should Not Be Arbitrary In Allowing Premature Release; Policy Must Be Applied Equally To All: Supreme Court

Update: 2023-02-07 06:48 GMT

In a matter concerning remission of convicts in the State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala noted that the arbitrary application of different yardsticks for similarly placed convicts would give rise to a situation where the persons lacking resources would suffer the most.  

Earlier, the Court had directed that the authorities must insist for a formal application from the prisoner for considering remisison.

In the last hearing, the court had directed the Director General (Prisons) of the State of Uttar Pradesh to file a personal affidavit showing steps taken in pursuance of the judgement in Rashidul Jafar v. State of UP, in which many directions were issued regarding remission of prisoners.

It was found by the court that as of 31 December 2022, there are 1,15,163 prisoners in the State of UP out of whom 18,429 are undertrial prisoners. Further, there are 26,734 convicts of whom 16,262 are undergoing a sentence of life imprisonment. Additionally, 2,228 convicted prisoners have completed 14 years of actual imprisonment and are eligible for being considered for premature release. 

The affidavit filed by the Director General of police indicated that in the preceding 5 years, 3,729 prisoners have been released in the State of Uttar Pradesh under various arrangements for premature release. 

The court, while noting that the State of UP had been applying different policies for similarly placed convicts, stated in its order–

"State of Uttar Pradesh, having formulated a Statute, Rules and a Standing Policy for deciding cases of premature release, is bound by its own formulations of law. Once there are legal provisions which hold the field, it is not open for the State to adopt an arbitrary yardstick to pick up cases of premature release and must be in conformity with its policies and bearing in mind that there is a fundamental principle of law that remission is as per the policy which existed during conviction and liberalisation is to be implemented as amended later."

The bench added in the order –

"An arbitrary method adopted by the state is liable to give rise to a situation where the persons lacking resources, or for that matter adequate education and awareness, would suffer the most. Bearing in mind the repeated instances which are coming before the court resulting in the invocation of Article 32 of the Constitution, we are intending to institutionalise the process for considering premature release in terms of the governing statutory provisions in the state of Uttar Pradesh and for effective monitoring of the process."

Case Title : Rajkumar vs State of Uttar Pradesh | Miscellaneous Application No.2169/2022 in W.P.(Crl.) No. 36/2022

Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 144

For Petitioner(s) Mr. Nagendra Singh, Adv. Ms. Akansha, Adv. Mr. Ashish Pandey, Adv. Mr. Naman Raj Singh, Adv. Dr. Amardeep Gaur, Adv. M/S. V. Maheshwari & Co., AOR

For Respondent(s) Mr. Vishnu Shankar Jain, AOR Mr. Rishi Malhotra, AOR

Remission- Code of Criminal Procedure - Section 432- it is not open to the State to adopt an arbitrary yardstick for picking up cases for premature release. It must strictly abide by the terms of its policies bearing in mind the fundamental principle of law that each case for premature release has to be decided on the basis of the legal position as it stands on the date of the conviction subject to a more beneficial regime being provided in terms of a subsequent policy determination. The provisions of the law must be applied equally to all persons. Moreover, those provisions have to be applied efficiently and transparently so as to obviate the grievance that the policy is being applied unevenly to similarly circumstanced persons. An arbitrary method adopted by the State is liable to grave abuse and is liable to lead to a situation where persons lacking resources, education and awareness suffer the most. 

Click here to read the order


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